Apr 13, 2014

To confer or to concur?

Image by @sandymillin
via eltpics on Flickr
For the first time since it was last held in Harrogate (2010), I didn’t go to the annual IATEFL conference this year and - like thousands of other English teachers who couldn’t afford to go to the largest EFL conference in the world - settled in comfortably in front of my computer to watch it online. All plenary talks and selected presentations are streamed live on the IATEFL online website thanks to the partnership between IATEFL and the British Council. I was particularly looking forward to the talks by Prof Michael Hoey on 4 April ("Old approaches, new perspectives" - click HERE to watch the recording) and Prof Sugata Mitra on 5 April ("The future of learning"- click HERE for the recording) and highly recommended them to all my students (teacher candidates).

Mar 1, 2014

Horizontal alternatives to vertical lists

Photo by Tzvi Meller
As much as it seems counter-intuitive, teaching new vocabulary in semantic sets (e.g. jobs: doctor, teacher, lawyer etc. or colours: red, blue, yellow etc.) does not facilitate learning. As far back as in the 1990s, research showed that teaching semantically related items is counter-productive. Have these findings been taken on board? Of course not! New vocabulary in elementary level coursebooks is routinely presented in lists of semantically related items.

Jan 5, 2014

News Quiz 2013 - Vocabulary

Images by Tim Evanson,  Gene Hunt
Alex Alishevskikh via Flickr
As usual, as a follow up to the traditional end-of-year news quiz, here are language-focused activities aimed at reviewing and consolidating lexis from quiz. If you haven't seen the news quiz 2013, click HERE

This is how I usually use the quiz with my students.

Please note the quiz and the activities below come in two levels.

Dec 31, 2013

End-of-year news quiz 2013

Traditional quiz for your first lesson in 2014

By lasanta.com.ec via Flickr
[CC BY 2.0]
For some reason I had a hard time coming up with news items for this year's quiz. Not that the year was uneventful but somehow there were no sex scandals, jumps from space or viral videos which usually make good questions for the quiz. There were lots of deaths though, which is reflected in the questions, and while we're on the topic I'd like to mention that our field has also lost three notable figures in 2013: Leo Van Lier, Earl Stevick and Dave Willis (see my tribute HERE)

Dec 29, 2013

Top 3 web tools of 2013

As the year draws to a close it’s time for various top 10, 20 etc lists. I am going to limit myself to 3 and share the web tools that have undoubtedly been my favourite this year. Three different tools - three different uses.


Dec 20, 2013

The blogger behind this blog

In response to the blog tag challenge

By Masachi Mochida via Flickr
[CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I’ve been tagged. Twice. In a blog challenge the idea of which is to post 11 random facts about oneself, answer 11 questions posted by the blogger who tagged you and then pass the baton by posting 11 questions and tagging 11 other bloggers. Why 11 - I have no idea. If it had been up to me I’d have gone for 13 (since it’s 2013) like last year’s Adam Simpson’s 12 of 2012 blog challenge (see HERE).

Dec 7, 2013

Love Actually: activities, ideas, vocabulary

Image source:
www.universalstudiosentertainment.com
I use a lot of films in my teaching: not just occasional Youtube clips but full-length authentic feature films, and I’ve been wanting for a while to start a new section on this blog where I would upload my film-based materials. I thought December would be a suitable time to share materials for many people’s favourite Christmas film Love Actually.
Warning: some scenes are suitable for adults only


Dec 1, 2013

Going experimental at TESOL France

A summary of the TESOL France’s  32nd annual colloquium  which took place in Paris between 22 and 24 November 2013.

ELT conferences often have a title or theme with various presentations loosely related to it. TESOL France’s annual colloquium held in Paris in November isn’t one of them. However, this year’s colloquium, my third, had an underlying theme for me – experimental practice. Here are highlights of some of the sessions I went to.

Oct 26, 2013

We are lexically indebted to him

Image source:
www.willis-elt.co.uk
I opened my Facebook yesterday morning and was saddened to see Chia Suan Chong’s post about the passing of Dave Willis. I went over to Twitter and the feed was already filled with RIPs and condolences. For most in the ELT world Dave Willis’s name is associated with Task-Based Learning. But his contribution to lexical approaches to language teaching is just as outstanding. In fact, his pioneering work on the first Lexical Syllabus predates Michael Lewis’s seminal book by three years, the main difference between the two being words as a starting point for Willis and collocations for Lewis.

Oct 9, 2013

Learners' use of collocations: insights from research

By jjpacres via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I often cite research in my talks so in this series of posts I would like to share some interesting studies which looked at how second language (L2) learners use collocations. This post reviews three studies which sought to answer, among others, the following questions:

1. At what level of proficiency are learners more likely to make collocational errors? 

2. To what extent are learner’s errors caused by negative transfer (aka interference) from L1?


Sep 14, 2013

The highway to fluency and a roundabout way to grammar


Photo by @GoldsteinBen via eltpics on Flickr
A second lesson with two new pre-intermediate (A2) students (I usually put my private students in pairs). In the first lesson we read three stories about immigrants (from Innovations Pre-Intermediate) and underlined useful bits of language (I hadn't introduced the word "chunk" yet). For our second lesson they were asked to prepare a short talk about their lives using as much "useful language" as they could – no writing! They did a pretty good job and successfully integrated some chunks into their stories:

Back home…
When I came over here…
I didn't have enough money
To support my family

Aug 18, 2013

Lettuce, olives and other things

By @eannegrenoble | eltpics on Flickr
In the middle of the market where I go for my weekly vegetable shopping there is a stall where I buy olives. The owners of the stall are a husband and wife team who know I am an English teacher. The other day the wife – let's call her Lily – pointed at lettuce and asked me:

"What do you call it in English?" (the exchange took place in Hebrew)
"Lettuce," I replied.
"Letters?" asked Lily.
We then worked on the pronunciation a little until she got it right. I thought it was time to move on to new items. I pointed at olives.